This is an extraordinary time. For the first time in history we’ve had 45 million Americans living below the poverty line for three years in a row. Today, 1 in 5 of American children struggle with hunger.

What our kids need

The good news is that hunger is a solvable problem. Why? Americans are not hungry for the reasons that people around the world are hungry. It is not war or famine or drought. We have food in abundance and food programs too. But not everyone is accessing them, especially kids.

"We must raise voices that say we will never let bureaucracy or indifference interfere with getting a healthy meal to a hungry child..."

Twenty-two million kids get a free or reduced price school lunch. But only 12 million get breakfast and 4 million get meals in summer. There are many reasons for that, ranging from transportation issues to the stigma associated with going to the cafeteria to get breakfast while other kids report to the classroom with their friends.

Guaranteeing food

In New York City, just a few months ago, the mayor and city council agreed to put $18 million in the budget to move 500 elementary schools to make breakfast a part of the school day. That adds 370,000 kids to the school breakfast program.

The L.A. Unified School District has achieved school breakfast participation of 102 percent of lunch participation, making it first in the nation. 270,000 kids in L.A. schools are starting their day with a breakfast that helps ensure they are ready to learn and will make them stronger, healthier and more attentive. This is a large and complex school system. If it can move to breakfast after the bell, so can any school system.

HUNGER STRIKE: Kids in New York City and Los Angeles school systems are now receiving breakfast meals, but that’s just the start.

 

Ending apathy

Most of our youngest citizens are not only vulnerable; they are voiceless. Our real opportunity is to help lift their voices and our own. We must raise voices that say we will never let bureaucracy or indifference interfere with getting a healthy meal to a hungry child, and that the fight against hunger is one of the great humanitarian, faith and social justice issues of our time.

We must be the voice that says we will not only feed kids but we will marshal the will to prevent hunger in the first place. And we must help lift the voices that say: We can’t have a strong America with weak kids.